All I wanted from this game was to see the Cavs play with effort. Sure, I would’ve loved a win, but after the debacle that was December 2nd, I simply wanted to watch the game and not be embarrassed.
I sure as hell got my wish, as the Cavs (led by Ryan Hollins, of all people), out hustled, out executed and just simply out-played the Miami Heat, 102-90. The Cavs had five players in double figures, outrebounded Miami 44-30 (LeBron led Miami with 10 boards, part of a 36-10-12 triple double) and they held the Heat to 42% from the floor. It was a great team effort, everyone contributed and the Cavs certainly didn’t embarrass the city on this night.
While the entire Cavs team brought energy, Ryan Hollins particularly stood out. In what was by far his best game as a Cavalier, Hollins filled up the boxscore to the tune of 13 points, 3 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks (with a +/- of a whopping +33) but it was his attitude more than anything that made the difference.
Hollins got into it with a couple Miami players, notably Dwyane Wade and Eric Dampier, and he made his presence felt on both the offensive and defensive end (his length really bothered Chris Bosh). Early in the game Hollins gave Wade some contact after the whistle and D.Wade took exception and gave Ryan an earful and things stayed chippy between Hollins and the Heat for the rest of the evening.
After ending first quarter tied at 24, the Cavs opened the second on a 16-8 run (7 of which belonged to Luke Harongody) and eventually built the lead to 16 (50-34 with just under 3 minutes to go in the half). Miami made a run to cut it to 8 but Baron Davis’s trey to end the half put the Cavs up 53-42 heading into halftime.
The third period was quite bizarre. The Cavs weathered an early Heat push and then went nuts, going on an 18-0 run and getting up by as many as 23 points (71-48). Everything seemed to be going right; J.J. Hickson was hitting jumpers, Alonzo Gee was getting easy points off of put-backs and alley-oops and Miami just couldn’t keep up.
Then they went zone. The Heat followed the Cavs 18-0 with a 19-1 run of their own. Davis took a rest, the Heat moved to a 2-3 zone and both Gibson and Sessions acted like they’ve never seen a zone before. The Cavs were completely befuddled offensively (so many charges. *sigh*) and Miami pushed the tempo and that 20 point lead was down to 5 in a snap. Christian Eyenga knocked down a corner trey with roughly 2 seconds left in the period only to be followed by LeBron knocking down a 60 footer at the buzzer.
If you were watching the game, the ball clearly left LeBron’s hands after the buzzer sounded. However, apparently the clock started too early and the refs decided that LeBron would’ve gotten it off in time had it started correctly, giving him bucket after calling it no good (turns out, shouldn’t have done that).
Byron Scott kept Boobie and Sessions out there against the zone to start the fourth and while both guys had nice games (Boobie had 5 points, 5 boards, 5 assists and 2 blocks while Sessions finished with 11-6-6), neither looked like he knew what he was doing against a zone. Miami managed to eventually tie the game at 83 but could never take the lead. Be it Anthony Parker (20 points, 7-9FG, 4-4 3pt) hitting a jumper while falling out of bounds or Luke Harongody sneaking a layup past two defenders, every time the Cavs needed a bucket, they got one.
Baron Davis had the greatest 10 point, 4-10 FG, 7 assists statline you’ll ever see. Davis makes such a big difference out there, even though he’ll jack up some terrible shots from time to time. Davis is the Cavaliers’ point guard. Full stop. Point Guard. Ramon Session and Daniel Gibson play point guard, Davis is the Cavaliers’ Point Guard.
Watching Davis feed off the excellent Cleveland crowd, you can see how the other players respect him. At different times throughout the evening, Davis would be barking instructions to the other players. He was in control of the team and was running the offense (it drove me bonkers that he wasn’t out there to start the fourth).
It was nice to see.
Nice doesn’t begin to cut it. This game was fun. This game was tense (I was sure they were going to lose because they kept leaving Mike freaking Bibby wide open). The crowd was fantastic and this time the Cavs fed off their energy and it unnerved the Heat just enough to make a difference. Miami never looked entirely comfortable (LeBron, Bosh and Wade all took some awkward shots) and while Cavs gave up a big lead, they never let LeBron and company take the lead.
It was a great night to be a Cavs fan. Yes, this is just the team’s 15 victory but LeBron and company were on an 8 game win streaking heading into Tuesday’s game. The Heat were playing well and with Miami fighting for playoff position, this game actually mattered to them. This was no trap game or anything, Miami needed this game and the Cavs simply refused to give it to them.
That’s all we fans wanted. Effort. The refusal to quit. Challenging every shot, going for every loose ball… that’s all we ask. Just try hard.
And they did.
And they won.
Their first and only double-digit victory of the year came against LeBron and the Heat.